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Attorney Fired for Porn Ties

New Jersey- Pornography and municipal government don’t mix, at least in some local municipalities.

During their annual reorganization meetings, communities in Warren and Hunterdon counties dropped Eric Bernstein as their municipal attorney.

Bernstein made headlines and drew the ire of some local officials last year when it was revealed that besides his work for local governments, the Warren, N.J.-based attorney represents operators of pornographic Web sites.

Of the four municipalities Bernstein represented in 2003, High Bridge Borough and Washington Township appointed new attorneys, while Franklin and Lebanon townships in Hunterdon County have yet to make any appointments.

High Bridge Mayor Al Schweikert said Bernstein’s porn work was a major factor in his vote.

“It’s a political liability to have that attached to you,” Schweikert said.

In October, Bernstein said he once served as a mediator for ynotmasters.com, a Web site that provides legal and business advice to operators of adult sites, and continued to answer questions posted on the site. Bernstein also said he had clients who operate porn sites.

Bernstein did not return calls for comment Monday.

Bernstein’s work for porn sites was “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Schweikert said.

“I wasn’t always happy with the work we got,” Schweikert said.

In January 2003, Schweikert re-appointed Peter Buchsbaum as borough attorney. But council sided against Buchsbaum, the 17-year veteran, in favor of Bernstein.

Council changed course this year, voting unanimously last week to appoint Buchsbaum borough attorney.

Washington Township Mayor John Horensky said Bernstein’s porn work was not a factor in his vote to appoint Edward Glynn as the new township attorney. The committee was made aware of Bernstein’s work with adult Web sites but took no action, Horensky said.

“I don’t recall that being an issue,” Horensky said.

The township solicited several proposals for professional services from attorneys last year and used them as a basis for its appointment of Glynn, he said. Horensky said he initially was inclined to support Bernstein but later learned there was not enough support from the rest of the committee for his re-appointment.

“Personally, I had no problem with the performance of Mr. Bernstein,” Horensky said.

Lebanon Township Committeeman Jay Weeks said it’s likely the committee would vote to reappoint Bernstein. Lebanon Township has not reorganized for 2004. Last year after information was revealed about Bernstein’s porn-related work, the committee did not take issue with the attorney, Weeks said.

“As long as it doesn’t interfere with our work, it’s none of our business,” Weeks said.

Franklin Township Mayor George Burdick said the committee invited Bernstein and others to interview for the position, as is tradition, but have been unable to set a date for a vote. The committee was scheduled to interview other attorneys Monday and later this week. Burdick said the committee wants someone “who best suits the requirements of Franklin Township.”

Burdick declined to comment on Bernstein’s work for adult Web sites and said he didn’t recall if the committee discussed the issue last year.

 

 

 

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